The season of unbearable heat and suffocating humidity is upon us. Which calls for a special quest: finding the best air conditioner for a small apartment.
Yes, unfortunately, many apartment-dwellers suffer from poor ventilation and poor central air conditioning in apartments. Fortunately, though, you can take the matters of cooling your space into your own hands.
Fans are usually the first thing that pops into mind when the hot weather comes knocking. They circulate the air in your area which does give some instant relief, but they don’t do much to actually cool down your place.
This is where air conditioners come into play.
In this post, we’ll be focusing on the no-drill air conditioners. So here you’ll find ACs that you can use right out-of-the-box, no drilling required, suitable for both apartment-owners and renters.
Now, before we dive in…
Here are some things to keep in mind before you choose the best air conditioner for a small apartment:
Room size vs AC size
while you might be tempted to get the most powerful AC to get rid of the heat, it’s not the right approach. ACs work by removing humidity and heat from the air. So if you get an AC that is too powerful, it will cool the room before it manages to remove the humidity resulting in a cold and clammy environment. On the other hand, an air conditioner that is too small will be overworked and add to your energy bills without cooling the room properly.
In order to get it right, you need to match the square footage of your room to the ACs cooling capacity (recorded in BTU).
Here’s a handy table to help you with that:
|Area to be cooled (sq ft)||Area to be cooled (m²)||BTU|
You can also follow this thorough guide from Energy Star on how to match the cooling capacity to different types of rooms.
Some Home Owner Associations don’t allow the installation of window-mounted air conditioners. The same goes for through-the-wall air conditioners. So before you start looking for an AC make sure to find out if such limitations apply in your case.
Personal air conditioners cool the room by evaporating the water you add to it. This creates a humid environment in the room which is ideal for dry climates. Not so much for areas with a typically humid climate. We’ll touch upon that later when we get to these ACs.
As we’ve mentioned before, ACs pull the humidity out of the air. This humidity turns into water. Now, some ACs require you to empty that water. Other air conditioners, with self-evaporating or auto-evaporating technology, do not (unless it’s really humid).
Some ACs come with the added benefit of air purification (which is great for households with kids and pets). Personal air conditioners cool the apartment by evaporating water, acting as humidifiers at the same time. Portable air conditioners often have a dehumidifying function, as well.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the best no-drill air conditioners out there.
We’ll be focusing on portable, personal, and window-mounted air conditioners.
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link like that, I’ll earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) to feed the bottomless pit that is my cat.
The best portable air conditioners for an apartment
Portable air conditioners have so many advantages. They pull the hot air out of the room and get rid of it through an exhaust hose. To set up a portable AC you need to install an included window kit and pull the exhaust pipe through it. They are also easy to move from room to room, unlike a window AC that remains in one spot.
Additionally, portable air conditioners often come with a dehumidifying function and are perfect for humid climates. Some also are equipped with a self-evaporating feature for the water that gets pulled out from the air. This type of AC requires little to no installation so people often use it as a mobile home air conditioner.
So let’s take a look at the top-rated home AC units that don’t require any drilling or breaking the bank.
Honeywell HL12CESWK Contempo Portable Air Conditioner
This portable air conditioner comes in several models with cooling capacities measuring 10,000, 12,000 and 14,000 BTU. It has two filters that protect the AC from dust and hair which extends its lifetime. These filters can be comfortably washed and don’t require replacements on a regular basis.
It comes with an easy-to-use installation kit for the exhaust hose that works with both vertical and horizontal windows. Additionally, this is one of the best fully self-evaporating portable air conditioners which means no bucket is required for water collection. You can also use this portable AC as a dehumidifier.
This air conditioner comes with a bunch of other interesting features. This includes 3 fan speeds, thermal overload protection, energy-saving mode, sleep mode, and remote control. Also, it boasts really low noise levels – 49-52 decibels (the sound level of an average conversation) which makes it the best bedroom air conditioner you can get.
COSTWAY Portable Air Conditioner
Although this portable AC has several iterations, let’s focus on the one with 8,000 BTUs. After all, we’re looking for the best air conditioner for a small apartment and this one can comfortably cool a 230 sq. feet (21 m²) room.
This one is cheaper than the one above but still has everything you might need from an AC. It has 2 fan speeds and a remote control but that’s not all. The AC features a fan mode, cool mode, and dry mode, which makes it act as a dehumidifier. Additionally, it has a sleep mode where the AC becomes somewhat quieter (≈56 decibels). You can combine the sleep mode with its timer feature to ensure a restful sleep even in the hottest days of summer.
Another thing worth mentioning is that this portable AC requires you to empty its internal water tank. But the AC will issue a ‘water full’ signal when the time comes. It also comes with an installation window kit. Note that the most suitable window size is said to be 22.5-42 inches.
BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT Portable Air Conditioner
One of the best-rated home air conditioners, this portable AC combines the best features of the two and is perfect for cooling small rooms, whether it’s your living room or a home office. It is also recommended as a cooling option for dorms and RVs.
This unit has several iterations with ranging cooling capacities. But let us once again look at the 8,000 BTU model. It doesn’t take up much space measuring only 16.5” x 11.5” x 26”. Self-evaporating, it doesn’t involve emptying an internal water bucket which makes using it more hassle-free. It works with double-hung or sliding windows, although you can combine it with this universal window seal or a window security gadget if you have another type of window.
As for its features, it has 3 fan speeds and 3 modes. The latter include fan, cooling, and dehumidifying modes. The interesting thing about the cooling mode is that it has an auto-fan feature that dynamically adjusts the speed of the fan to maintain the target temperature.
Honeywell HL14CHESWW Portable Air Conditioner + Heater
Most ACs will work for you a couple of months a year. This one will do twice as much. All thanks to its heating feature.
This 4-in-1 portable AC can do it all. You can use it as a fan, a cooling or heating solution, or as a dehumidifier. It has a cooling power of 14,000 BTUs which is more than enough for a small space. The portable AC can be quickly installed on a vertical or horizontal sliding window and just as quickly removed when not in use.
Other features of this all-season AC include remote control, energy-saving timer, 3 fan speeds, thermal overload protection, and internal dual filters.
The best personal air conditioners for a small space
Personal air conditioners are great for cooling down small areas. Use one to create a cool and humid microclimate around you. Usually, they are set on a desk, a coffee table near a TV, a craft table, or any other place you spend long hours at.
The advantages of personal mini-ACs are vast. They are significantly cheaper than full-blown portable air conditioners. Also, personal ACs don’t require an exhaust hose to function. This renders them truly portable. You can carry one with you everywhere – from one room to another, from inside to outside. Some can also be charged and run completely cordless.
Here is something to be aware of. When we say ‘personal’ or ‘microclimate’, we mean it. Personal ACs are usually capable of covering an area of 6 feet or less. Additionally, these air conditioners work by evaporating water. The result is a cool mist that can be a sweet sweet relief on the hottest days of summer. But if you live in a humid climate, adding even more humidity to the mix might not suit you.
4-in-1 Mini USB Personal Air Conditioner
This personal AC pulls the warm air from your surroundings, purifies it, and uses it to cool down the 6-feet area around you. The result is a refreshing and misty oasis that is up to 13 degrees Celsius cooler than the rest of the room. Just add water to its 480 ml tank and you’re all set.
As a great option for mobile and manufactured homes, it has the same energy consumption as a light bulb. What’s more, it offers plenty of flexibility in terms of powering it up, including through an outlet (if you have an adaptor) or USB.
Last but not least, this personal AC doubles down on the portability aspect with its small size and convenient handle. Plus, it has no exposed blades which keeps curious hands (and paws) safe.
LERIZOM Evaporative Portable Air Conditioner
This little guy is not only functional but also design-forward. It boasts a sleek minimalist form with built-in soft lights. So this personal AC can double a mood light with 7 color options.
You can use this personal air conditioner as a fan with 3 levels of speed, a humidifier with 2 mist modes, an air purifier, or AC. For the best cooling, add ice cubes and cold water to its 700 ml tank to get a refreshing mist going. It runs on a low noise level so you can use it at night, with its illumination serving as a night light.
Once again, it cools only the immediate area that surrounds it. So you can keep it on your desk while working, on a bedside table while sleeping, or on a coffee table while you binge right next to it.
SHSTFD Purifying Personal Air Conditioner
If the AC’s size matters to you, take a look at this one. It’s tiny so you can fit it even on a cramped desk. In terms of portability, it weighs only 1.33 lb (0.6 kg) and has a convenient handle on top.
You can charge the built-in batteries that can last up to 10 hours and take it outside or on camping trips. It has 3 cooling speeds and you can adjust the direction of the airflow. So this small personal AC is perfect for cooling and humidifying your surroundings while also helping you save on your energy bills.
Auto Oscillation Personal Air Conditioner
If you have more of a ‘the bigger, the better’ approach, there is a personal AC that matches that description.
It features a large 700ml tank that you can add ice cubes to. This will give you a powerful stream of cool air for 3∼12 hours.
Same as the previous ones, it is a 3-in-1 unit that includes a fan, humidifier, and AC. You get some interesting options for adjusting the direction and power of the airflow. You can set up the speed of the fan as well as the power of refrigeration. One of its unique features is oscillation control that allows you to choose the angle of the airflow from 60° to 120°.
This personal air conditioner is also portable with chargeable batteries and a convenient handle. It is great for home offices, balconies, patios, bedrooms, and any other space that you’d like to feel comfortable in on a hot day.
The best window air conditioners for small apartments
Window-mounted AC is the best air conditioner for a small apartment. As the name suggests, it gets installed directly onto the window and doesn’t take up any floor space in the room. It also requires no drilling, unlike ductless air-cons. Although some do opt for installing a window AC through the wall, we’re focusing on no-drill air conditioners in this post.
A common fear that pops up is the security of window-mounted air conditioners. What if it falls out of the window? It won’t, as long as you follow the installation instructions to the T and correctly secure it in place.
It is important to measure the window first and then proceed with finding the AC that will fit it. Additionally, be aware that the window AC will be obstructing the view and natural light that comes from the window it’s mounted on. It also means that (with most units) you won’t be able to open the window. But hey, at least you won’t subject to the scorching heat thanks to its cooling powers.
Last but not least, some Home Owner Associations do not allow window AC installation. If you have doubts, make sure to find out if such limitations exist in your building.
Midea U Inverter U-Shaped Window Air Conditioner
Midea U is the world’s first U-shaped window air conditioner and it comes with a few perks.
The most important one is that the U-shaped design allows you to freely open and close the window it sits on. You can install it by using the support bracket on single-hung or double-hung windows (22-36 inches). This is the best air conditioner for a small apartment, especially for rooms with only one window.
Apart from its unique design, Midea U is said to be almost as quiet as a library with its noise level reaching only 42 dBA which makes it the best AC for a bedroom. It has also obtained the Energy Star Most Efficient 2020 Certification due to being able to provide over 35% energy savings than traditional units.
Midea U is also outfitted with Wi-Fi and Smart Control. The latter allows you to control the AC through a dedicated app, Alexa, or Google Assistant.
It comes in 8,000, 10,000 and 12,000 BTU cooling capacities.
LG Dual Inverter Window Air Conditioner
What makes this window air conditioner from LG truly stand out is its dual inverter technology. Most window ACs cool down the room, turn off the compressor, and only once the temperature increases, start cooling again. However, LG’s dual inverter technology dynamically adjusts the speed of the motors to constantly maintain the desired temperature.
This model comes in several versions with a cooling capacity of 9,500, 14,000, 18,000, and 22,000 BTU. The 9,500 unit should be more than enough for a small space. Although make sure to follow the chart above to figure out which cooling capacity is right for your place.
Other of its features include Wi-Fi, remote control, and compatibility with Google Home and Alexa. And it is one of the quietest window air conditioners out there.
Frigidaire Compact Window Air Conditioner
If you’re looking for an affordable window-mounted air conditioner for a tiny room, Frigidaire offers the best air conditioners for small apartments. They have a wide assortment of window units with smaller cooling capacity, starting with 5,000 BTU, which is a perfect fit for tiny apartments.
The window air conditioner above has a cooling capacity of 8,000 BTU that can comfortably cool down a 350 sq ft room. One of its main strong points is its energy efficiency. It holds a 2016 energy efficiency star and has been reported to really make a difference when it comes to energy bills.
It is also equipped with an air ionizer that removes allergens and impurities from the air. Additionally, it is remote-controlled and you can adjust its speed and the direction of the cool airflow.
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